Browsing: Small Business

What to Look for in a High Risk Credit Card Processing Company

If you have been deemed a high risk merchant, then you know just how hard it is to find a credit card processor. Your job is to find the right processor for your high risk merchant account. You really want to get it right from the first try so you do not have to go through the process again and again. This is why smart merchants use professional high risk credit card processing companies. You need a professional agent and guide that will help you get approved quickly and easily.

Reliability Above All

Processing credit card payments is a serious business and you do not want just anyone handling your merchant account. When you're researching high risk merchant account services, make sure you start by talking to a risk professional. You do not want someone who sole background is with pizzerias and hair salons. You are looking for an experienced and reliable high risk credit card processing professional. You are looking for a processor with multiple solutions for your high risk industry. Speak to a real professional – do not talk to a clerk.

Client Solutions

As a merchant in the industry, you will often need multiple solutions for your credit card processing. You should deal with a professional who can arrange for you to have more than one merchant account with more than one high risk processing bank. You do not want to be caught in a situation where your processing bank drops a category and you get dropped as well through no fault of your own. You must deal with an expert to avoid such situations.

There are a few companies who specialize in getting companies in these risky industries the merchant accounts they need – whether local or an offshore – so that they can process their credit card sales efficiently and quickly. They can provide – even those companies with serious credit score problems – the merchant accounts or international merchant accounts that will allow them to be up and running quickly.

These professionals are available 24/7 and can work with you to get you around the problems faced by your competitors by helping get you established internationally (if necessary), offshore accounts (yes, they do that as well) and locally. There is nothing else you need to do if you fall into the category other than give them a call and let these professionals find the solutions best suited for your business. Running a business in a risky industry according to credit card processors should not be a scarlet letter. There are great options available that you can find by just making a call to the right professional.

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10 Easy Ways You Need To Know To Grow A Business

How many months have you been investing in your business to see no results?

Here's the interesting thing I've learned from being in business and coaching other small businesses to grow.

All the marketing and sales strategies work … in their own time.

Chances are that you have worked hard and doing the 'right' things to grow your business. You just have focused on the big sexy strategies that bring in business in the long-term, but have you hearing crickets in the short-term.

If that's you, know this – you are not alone. In fact 85% of the businesses I work with are doing the same. If they can change things around and see results in the next 90 days – you can too. Here are the top 10 ways you can grow a business easily and quickly.

1. Balance out your marketing mix to include short-term (results in 90 days), medium (results in 90-180 days) and long-term (results in 180+ days).

2. Be more active in your marketing. If you wait for your phone to ring, you need to do more marketing that boosts your “Know, Like & Trust Factor”. The fastest way is through being your clients are and talking to them. If you need to grow your business, do not wait for business to come to you!

3. Build Out Your Circle of Influence. Have you ever played the game '6 degrees of Kevin Bacon'? Think of the people who through the course of their work touch your ideal client. Seek out partnerships and alliances with those businesses who best represent how you like to do business. Developing relationships with a few key people is a quick path to cash

4. Ask Your Clients To Buy Again. It's easy to focus on getting new clients and new projects in the door, but your existing clients are more profitable. Reach out to any previous client who has not purchased the last 6 months or a year. Let them know how valuable they have been to you and see if there is anything you can do for them now.

5. Ask Your Clients For Referrals. If you love your clients, then you'll probably love their referrals. Always be asking for referrals as a course of business, but even if the client you just called in # 4 does not have work for you, then ask, “Who do you know who …?”

6. Raise Your Price. I know this looks simple, but most people do not adjust their pricing in accordance with their costs. I had a client who lost 20% in gross profits because she unknowingly she had undercharged. The change in her business puts $ 100,000 to her bottom line. I know this is a sensitive area, but know most buyers will not even register a 10% increase in price.

7. R e-evaluate Your Profitability Priorities. It's easy to say yes to subscriptions and little extras in your business – but you could be nickel and diming yourself to death. Cancel any unused subscription no matter how good of an idea it might be, trim back on the nice-to-have expenses and create cash to put into the growth of your business.

8. Stop Being Busy, Start Being Effective. Take a good hard look at what you do with your day. The top three things an entrepreneur or small business owner needs to do is 1.) Find The Money, 2.) Sell The Money & 3.) Serve The Money. How much green is in your calendar? If it is not a revenue generating task – dump it or delegate it.

9. Stop Doing It By Yourself. Gone are the days when small businesses can be successful in a silo, You get no trophy for doing it on your own. Invest in people who want to invest in you through accounting partners, masterminds or coaching. You will leap-frog your competition when you stand on the shoulders of giants.

10. Do not Make It Harder. Simplicity and ease is what wins in business. If it sounds to hard, it probably is – especially if you are doing it alone. It's better to keep things simple when putting together a growth plan for your business. Doing small things every day add up to a big result in the end. The easier things are, the easier they are to be consistent and sustainable. Most businesses stall out because they can not sustain their efforts – do not be one of them.

Use one or all of these strategies to kick-start the growth of your small business!

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How Cloud ERP Small Businesses Are Making the World a Better Place

As small businesses expand it is important that while growing, they must attempt to maintain efficiency and minimize cost. ERP systems are an excellent starting point in helping to achieve this aim.

Once, the ERP software was only available to larger businesses and organizations, but now businesses of all sizes can benefit from Enterprise Resource Planning. Small businesses may even benefit the most from ERP implementation.

A constant flow of information from all areas of the business will ensure the simplification of business processes through.

As all payment and shipping details are entered into the same ERP system, there is no longer needs to be approval from the accounts team before ordering large shipments of the required product. It is easy to maintain inventory and purchasing timesables using ERP as all purchases and sales are recorded on the system.

As everything is recorded in real-time, the efficiency of the sales process is greatly improved along with customer service. Each employee is fed with the most relevant and up to date information at all times, giving a more comprehensive knowledge of the process. Sometimes this allows for employees to grow an understanding of areas outside of their own regular duties.

Distribution software such as ERP software can also help companies' large or small keep within governmental regulations relating to licensing and industry-wide standards. This should be of particular help for those companies that do not employ a legal team.

As most ERP systems are web based, they do not require sporadic updates. In the constantly evolving arena of the ERP system all best practices are automatically kept clean and up to date with regulations. Of course, these factors can vary depending on your vendor but implementation, documentation, set-up, testing and training are always kept to a minimum.

Just as with larger companies, ERP allows small companies to protect their sensitive data. Personal and financial information is kept safe by a web of authentication. This should ease the mind of the company and its customers.

Failure to implement the system properly could result in a more cost effective than not implementing it at all. This is why some companies are slightly referenced to use the ERP system. However, this has been catered for by the option to use a shared benefits package.

This is where the vendor and company take a shared responsibility in implementing the system correctly; a particularly useful option for small businesses who may lack the expertise and specialist resources to implement an ERP properly. Opting for this approach can benefit the business in the following ways:

• Providing a financial incentive for the teams to come in under budget, the project costs are immediately cut.
• A strong partnership between customer and vendor leads to a reduced project risk and maximized effectiveness and productivity.
• Maintaining tighter project scope as well as having a practical approach to change control results in a shorter time frame for the project.

As the company grows, another expense may seem daunting to undertake, but even businesses watching their budgets very closely can be matched by the knowledge that the increased productivity and accelerated order processing will offset any costs of ERP software.

It is essential that the business works closely with the software vendor's project manager while it is also vital that the ERP system can fulfill all of the core needs of the business in order to achieve a solid ROI (Return on Investment).

ERP systems are ideal for small businesses that are looking to streamline their organization while increasing profit. It is the best system to help them compete with larger companies while economizing on cost and time.

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Most of What You Do Is Pointless (But That’s Actually Good News for Your Business)

Yeah, that subject line was pretty harsh, huh?

But do not worry: most of what I do is pointless, too. Most of what we all do is pointless. Let me explain …

Way back in 1906, an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto noticed something remarkable: 80% of Italian land was owned by just 20% of the population. He was intrigued by this, so he did what any sensible economist would do and went to look closely at his garden.

There, Pareto observed 20% of the pea pods in his vegetable plot contained 80% of the peas. And so he named the 80/20 Principle.

The 80/20 Principle is a common rule in business and in life. (It will not be exactly 80/20 – more like “big number / small number” – but you get the idea.)

For example:

• 80% of your profits come from 20% of your customers

• 80% of your headaches come from 20% of your customers

• 80% of your sales come from 20% of your products

• You wear 20% of your clothes 80% of the time

• 20% of your carpets get 80% of the wear

And so on and so forth, in all areas of your life. There are lots of other examples too, but we'll focus on the first three today because that's where your biggest wins can come from.

And it's not only interesting (if you're a nerd like me) – it means you can dramatically improve your productivity and profitability by focusing on the right stuff.

So, what to do?

First, I recommend you do a little customer sales analysis and find out which are your most profitable customers. Put some extra effort into contacting these customers – not just now, but in the future too.

They've provided themselves to be worth a lot to you, so give them the attention they deserve.

Start by sending them a little thank you card containing a special offer just for them. You'll be amazed at the response you get.

Second, identify the customers who cause you the most problems. We all have them: they're late payers, they take up loads of your time with trivial stuff, and they're always after a discount.

Then ditch them. That's right: stop doing business with them. They're not worth much to you, and when they do put business your way it's such a hassle it's barely worth it.

My business got a lot more profitable and fun, and much less stressful, when I sacked my worst clients.

It was scary, yes. I was worried at the time because after all, money is money right? (Wrong, but more on that another day.)

It was a great decision and I absolutely did not regret it.

Third, find out what your most profitable products or services are and develop them. How can you make them better? How can you adapt them to appeal to more of your customers?

What are your least profitable products or services? I bet you'll find they're also the most annoying ones to deliver. Or they're the least relevant to your core business.

Maybe you tried them on a whim? Which is fine, but it's important to let go of your whims when they're no longer serving you.

Perhaps most excitingly from a personal point of view, though, you can apply the 80/20 Principle to your time, too.

If you look closely at your activities, you'll probably find 20% of the stuff you do daily produces 80% of your results, whether that's at work or at play.

So start keeping a brief diary of what you're doing with your day. Be brutally honest. Record every time you check your emails, wander onto Facebook or have a quick sneaky go at Angry Birds.

You'll probably be shocked – I was when I did this exercise for the first time. But it was one of the best things I did.

I would not say I'm the most organized and productive person on the planet, but I'm definitely up there in the top 20%. You could be too.

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Exporters Directory – A Place to Find Verified Suppliers

In this fast moving highly competitive world, the biggest challenge in front of any buyer is to find the right seller. The sellers who are the manufacturers, suppliers, traders and exporters of the product are in big number. The challenge in front of the buyers is to find the genuine product supplier who offers the quality product at the best price. There are various possibilities to interact the sellers. Some of the possibilities are as follows: exhibitions, trade shows, B2B directories etc.

The most in demand and popular source for finding the suppliers in today's time is a B2B directory. The B2B directories growing demand and usage is due to the following reasons: Being an online platform they are the fastest and the most convenient platform to look after the worldwide sellers. The sellers listed here can provide their product details, company profiles and the contact details.

The registrations in B2B normally, compromises of the three types:

1. Free registration Members
2. Verified Members
3. Gold / Premium Members

The difference in three is on the basis of their package price they opted from the particular seller platform. But it also speaks a lot about the seller's business approach. A free registration may or may not have the cent percent correct data. The chances of the seller casual approach are high.

The verified members are 100% genuine sellers who are the manufacturers, suppliers, traders and exporters of the particular product. There listing categories is perfect and are also the people who are looking for the genuine lead for their businesses. The core idea about their business listing is the lead. The survey shows that the verified members are looking for the genuine lead meaning a genuine buyer. The quality lead / inquiry is there motive for which they get them as the verified members. Not only this in a survey it was also seen the product listing and category listing of verified members is very specific and appropriate. Thus, it is perfect for those buyers who know what they want to buy.

Another category, which is also the premium package in B2B market is of Gold / premium members. The organization which select this particular options are those organizations which believes in the online marketing and are looking for the global business opportunity and the leads. The leads offered here are not only high numbers but also are the most genuine leads.

Thus, as per the studies and the survey it is seen that verified members are the most trusted sellers. Whenever any buyer is looking in a business directory for a trade, he is always looking for the seller which offers the genuine product at the best price. The verification or trusted stamp on the catalog not only increase the trust of the buyer but also give them an appropriate information about the business which is not always appropriate in free registration. The free registration only drawback is that the seller listing is many times incomplete because the registration was not done 100% by the seller. Whereas, in case of verified it is the directory which ensures that all the data and content as per the keyword search is provided.

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The Next in Textile

In India, like any other country in the world, there is a constant requirement for the proverbial “roti, kapda aur makaan” or, in other words, “food, clothes and shelter”. With India’s (and the world’s, at large) population growing at a steady rate, the clothing industry – and its backbone – the textile industry too finds itself expanding rapidly.

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4 Simple Reasons to Recycle Your Electronics

Tech junkies love gadgets, and endless range of these gadgets hit the markets every few months – and it will continue to be in trend for years to come. We notice different kinds of devices like newer smartphones, laptops / PCs, or any other electronic devices coming out every month, and obviously people are so ingrained into this habit such they will acquire these newer gadgets and give up (throw away) on their existing gadgets. But instead of doing away with your existing gadgets and simply throwing them off, why not put it to a good cause of electronic recycling?

Just to draw your attention – to recycle electronics is a great thing! It is not only good for consumers; it is also very useful for people who can not always afford the latest and expensive gadgets. It also help for the nature. Read more on recycling electronics, its values ​​and why you should dispose your old items more responsibly.

Dangerous and Toxic Substances

All electronics – PC / laptops, televisions, cellphones, batteries etc have toxic and dangerous chemicals that are either good for our health yet for our planet. Batteries come with cadmium in it, laptops house mercury, and televisions contain lead in it. Improper disposal (in the garbage) can lead to air being filled with toxic chemicals and harming our health. Also improper disposal makes equal harm to the environment as the toxic substances can leak into water and soil. Recycling responsibly means keeping our health and environment in good shape.

Reusable Materials

Electronic waste (e-waste) disposal, if done in the right fashion, we allow it to be re-used for other things. Hardly do we realize that most of the things we dispose, it has components in it which are fully functional, and can be re-used for certain repairs or part of new product. For instance, a quick repair on PC using some components from your recycled part, can develop cheaper alternative products for developing world.

Goodwill recycling

It's a win-win situation for everyone. Instead of just throwing the older gadgets / devices like old computers or old mobile phones, why not donate those old electronics for goodwill? For instance, a college student who can not afford a new laptop can make good use of your no-longer-needed device. Responsible recycling can show you as a helper in the community and also allow the device recipient to learn something from it.

Avoid Information Theft

Laptops / PCs, smartphones and other electronic devices carry sensitive information about businesses and personal matters. Simply disposing your electronics into a dumpster leaves you vulnerable to that information / data theft. Even if you have double-checked that you deleted all the files as there are always illegal ways of retrieving data about you.

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Small Businesses Are the Drivers of Innovation

On a traditional and maybe not so even playing field, small businesses are not capable of competing with larger, more established industrial players. They do not possess the resources to take the same kind of large-scale actions – bulk purchases, to give a simple example. This is why they are on the losing end of any competition that requires scaling, such as a price war.

Amazon.com is a good example. Look at the way that they manage to undercut traditional bookstores. This is due to their ability to survive on thinner profit margins and optimize their activities, from their shipping processes to the ways that they hold stock at their warehouses, economy of scale as such.

However, if we think back to the beginning, Amazon started small (more specifically, one-man-in-his-garage small), which is pretty small by anyone's standards. How do such companies manage to grow, and how can the small businesses of today's world hope to emulate their success? I've been thinking about this recently and I've come to some surprising conclusions.

It is my assertion that being a small business enables the innovative approaches that create game-changing economic juggernauts. On the other hand, the realities of being economic juggernaut make the same type of innovation much less likely.

This is why small businesses are the true drivers of innovation. It's impossible to compete in a traditional manner, so the only way to win is to change the game.

Unlike small businesses, large companies favorably orderly changes that are easily contained in an existing industrial or corporatized context. They like controlled processes, where their tight structures and access to resources put them at an advantage. Any hierarchical organization has the same attitude.

Even if there is a mass adoption of new modes of problem solving, this is usually followed by attempts at acquisition on the part of a larger organization. Look at the history of any large technology company – after a certain point they stop developing new products and beginning buying start-ups and once again fast tracking their path to new and more innovating technology, all to stay ahead of the pack.

Even when a company is not the creator of a certain type of disruption, many arise to occupy the new ecosystem that it generates. There would be no search engine optimization industry without search engines, after all. In the rise and fall of these niches, it is the least established organizations that benefit from them.

Why Small Businesses Can Create Disruption

We know why industrial disruptions benefit small businesses, but why are they capable of creating them? There are several reasons for this.

Disruptive innovation is a mass-level, non-institutional change. At its core, it threatens the status quo and is usually born out of small, non-hierarchical groupings. Structural change and disruption take place in large, traumatical upheavals, which are quite benefit small, loosely-organized groups.

In smaller organizations, where each person is more likely to wear multiple hats, specialization is practically non-existent due to the need of being the jack of all trades. This leads to a greater flexibility and willingness to change fundamental approaches. A specialized method of solving problems is a recipe for orthodoxy and thinking that any deviation from the norm is impractical.

For exactly the same reasons that larger organizations are better at solving problems at a large scale, they are worse at recognizing necessary deviations from the norm. Compartmentalised, specialized processes stifle novelty and creativity, keeping them less nimble while being necessary for mass support and service.

Furthermore, the ties between those who run small businesses are most often not economic, but predicated on other social ties. Small businesses, including start-ups, are often formed among friends and family, rather than among a group of specialists in a particular field. This allows them to harness the self-stimulating forces of loyalty and genuine ownership of the product, giving them that extra drive to overcome any potential hurdles.

There are large companies that have attempted to create these types of structures within a larger corporate environment, but their successes are the exception rather than the rule. They become unwieldy and difficult to control from the center. Industrial hierarchy makes it possible to take less trained workers and get more uniform results from them. Anyone who's ever had a fast food job can attest to this.

Small businesses, when faced with an unusual problem (and when you're developing the next big thing in your garage, there's no such thing as a normal problem) tend to find unusual solutions to it. In larger organizations, each possible new solution has to be passed up the corporate ladder, being deleted and or diluted each time it's passed up or down the chain. This delays and usually weakens any adoption of new ideas. Furthermore, the employees in large organizations often resist new methods of their own accord, preferring habitual but non-optimal solutions.

Mass adoption of new methods of socialising, doing work, or making money are never the results of the types of calculation that are common in the boardroom. Because the motives are so inarticulate and arise spontaneously from wildly varying sectors of society, this process can not be manipulated, predicted, or controlled with any degree of exactitude.

These changes also lead to the emergence of changed landscapes where the services developed by the establishment may not be relevant. Take the example of the recording industry. The CD manufacturing, distribution, and promotion infrastructure were devalued when digital downloads disrupted the industry. Their relationship to accept it is understandable.

If you already have an established business model that brings in revenue, it is usually foolish to abandon it. Even expanding your core services takes a great deal of resources and vision, and the largest, most profitable companies have made themselves that way by introducing disruption within the circumstances where they do their business.

This can be accomplished, but the fundamental tendencies of each type of organization remains the same – small organizations tend to be more agile and to seek unorthodox, innovative answers, while larger ones tend towards standard solutions to standardized problems.

So there you have my view on how small businesses continue to be the drivers of innovation. As every professional was once an amateur and every expert was once a beginner and every successful company was once a small start-up.

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Grant Writing: A New Career Alternative

If you are looking for a career change, or perhaps are looking for part-time or retirement income, consider writing grants. Grant writing is an excellent professional occupation which provides a good income with low stress. Writing competitive grants is a specialized skill and is in high demand.

The need for grant writing services tends to be consistent regardless of the overall job market. When the economy is good businesses have a little extra money to spend on hiring a grant writer to apply for program money to help expand their business. When the economy is slow businesses are looking for qualified grant writers to help raise some additional money to replace lost revenue.

The act of researching for grant opportunities and writing grants can be done almost anywhere and anytime. As long as you have a laptop computer and internet connection you can research and write grants. More and more grant submissions are done online, with a few funders accepting applications by mail. You are not limited to a specific physical office space; nor are you limited by time.

Grant applications can be written whenever you have the time. As long as the grant application or proposal is completed prior to the submission deadline date, the time of day and pace to complete is very flexible. This flexible time is excellent for people who have a busy schedule or who are not a morning person.

Grant writing is a low stress occupation. Many grants have submission deadline dates which are typically several weeks to months in the future. If you are not an extreme procrastinator it is easy to finish any competitive grant application or proposal prior to the submission deadline date.

The one obstacle with being a grant writer is that the grant application process is becoming more and more competitive. To increase your success at attaining grant clients you should join a professional association and become a certified grant writer. Being a member of an association will show your clients that you are taking a serious approach to the grant writing vocation. An association will allow you to keep up on trends and changes and may even be able to refer some clients to your business.

Certification is important because it will tell your client that you have taken the time to learn about the grant writing process as well as know and to follow industry ethical standards. The ongoing support and information you will receive from a professional association is invaluable to the development of your grant writing business.

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Why Google Street View See Inside Is Bad for Websites and Business

Google Business Indoor Street View is great, but many are misguided that by having a business Indoor Street View will propel their chances of converting visitors to customers. In fact, that is a myth and may work against you.

Google Business Indoor Street View lacks the dynamic interaction that website visitors need. Circling in a 360-degree room may seem like fun but eventually gets old. We all know web site visitors need definitive instructions on how to buy from you or your website also know as call to action (CTA). This is where the issue resides.

Google Business Indoor Street View is ambiguous about their position, if having an “See Inside” image next to your search results helps with ranking. well, it does not affect ranking. Many have written articles stating it indirectly can effect ranking. Indirectly in that people see it, click on it and the more clicks you get the better you rank. Well, that may be possible but so are clicks to your website.

Many are missing the point. The point is not just to see inside of your store on Google search results but to visit it as well. First they must visit your website. Where your well planned out strategy of CTA's are awaiting them with clear directions on how to buy from you or visit your store. The first place See Inside is viewed is not on your website, it's on Google search result. The hope is that they see enough on Google to then want to visit your website or store. That is a 50/50 chance most are taking.

Website conversion occurs on your website not in the search engine results. The one job search engines have is to direct your visitors to your website, based on relevant content, that is it. If Google stated that a See Inside your business would propel your site to the top of search results, then by all means take advantage. Today that is not the case.

I am not saying Google See Inside is not useful. Asking potential clients to see inside the place of business helps with the decision making process. Narrowing down the choices and options available to customer is beneficial to all. If only Google would permit the business owner to decide where to place the See Inside. For example, providing the See Inside in the search results is expected but when a visitor clicks on the image they will be redirected to the actual website to see the virtual store. The bottom line is See Inside would be much more beneficial to store owner if they can direct where it is being viewed on Google search or business website.

Small businesses invest a lot of money in designing websites that convert. If your company is considering a virtual walkthrough consider only showing it on the website. Drive traffic to the website from the search engine results. I am sure the business is already paying Google enough for keywords.

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The Magic of Consistency and the Myth of Overnight Successes

I don’t know if any other business coaches promise amazing results in no time flat, but the reality is that building and growing a business takes time. And action. Consistent action. It doesn’t happen overnight.

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Future of Fabrication Industry in India

The fabrication industry is a crucial component to the country’s overall manufacturing status. The future outlook of the industry is expected to grow even more, owing it to the development of infrastructure, favorable policies, new investments in the oil and gas, power projects, and petrochemical industries. This article covers the trends in the fabrication industry of India, the budget set aside for it and the future of the industry.

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Laser Engraving Business – Is It Right for You?

A laser engraving business is a very profitable business one can start from home. For someone thinking of pulling out of formal employment, laser engraving offers a great opportunity to venture into business. But is it right for you?

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6 Top Tips for Business Start Ups

KEEP THE CASH FLOWING

Cash flow is mega important and is the single most problem for small and developing businesses. Lack of cash flow is the number one reason for small businesses failures. Always make sure there is enough money in the bank to enable you to carry out the day-to-day basics needed to run your business. If cash flow is restricted then try raising funds from sources such as banks, family and friends, crowing sourcing or even local companies who often invest in small business for the benefits of publicity. If you know that you have a cash flow or liquidity issue you need to address it now as leaving it to chance or opportunity will lead to business failure. Far too many business owners run their business as an extension of their own personal finances. This is a really bad idea, learn to keep the two separate.

ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU DO NOT KNOW EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BUSINESS

First of all, acknowledge that you do not have the skills to do everything that you need to do to run a successful business. None of us actually knows everything about everything even if we'd like to think we do. With this thought in hand it's a good idea to decide were your skills are lacking and undertake a small amount of training just so you understand the basics, then hire someone who can. You do not need to hire employees which will increase your overheads significantly; you can in fact hire really good freelancers from online sources such as Fiverr and Upwork.

ARE YOU YOUR OWN WORST ENEMY?

Most of us like to be in charge of our own futures and definitely our own business. Handing over control, even just a little can leave us feeling empty and scared. It does not have to be like that. You can maintain control while allowing those who can to perform the duties that they need to perform. Freelancers are very capable people and know their subjects well, hiring freelancers rather than employees may help you to maintain the control over your business that you desire while getting the job done sooner and cheaper.

LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMERS

Why do we tend to think that we know what our customers want, we do not because we very rarely listen. All too often we continue to look at it from a sales point of view rather than a consumer point of view. Once you put yourself into the footsteps of the buyer and pay attention to what the customer actually wants and needs you'll probably find out that what you are delivering needs to be readdressed.

It's all about the customer, what the customer wants and what the customer gets. In a nutshell all the customer actually wants is a product or service that fits their needs, is value for money and is administered through amazing customer service. It actually amazes me how little most small business owners value their customers. Not only is their feedback critical to you delivering what your customers need but also for their referrals and repeat business.

LISTEN TO YOUR GUT FEELINGS, THEY'RE NEVER WRONG

Our own instincts or gut feelings are seldom wrong; the issue is that most of us ignore them rather than use them as a valuable decision-making tool. We all too often are left saying; 'if only' when we make a bad business decision. My advice to you is to listen to your gut feelings, do some research and then act on the facts.

RUN YOUR BUSINESS LIKE A BUSINESS

If you do not know your revenues, expenses, capital requirements, profits (gross and net), debt, cash flow, and tax rate you're off to a bad start. First principle of business is getting the money right. Once the money aspect is operating as it should do you will be free to work on other aspects of your company.

If you do not learn to work effectively with other businesses.ie through effective agreements and contracts, you will come unstuck sooner rather than later. People always have good intentions but life sometimes gets in the way and people tend to not keep their side of the bargain. Protect yourself and your business with effective contracts and agreements. Always protect yourself when trading with both companies and customers alike.

If you have intellectual property make sure that you protect it. If you do not have the funds to copyright or trademark you IP then you can protect your own IP on a shoestring. You just need your designs, two envelopes, a lawyer / solicitor and a stamp. Secure your signed and dated designs in an envelope marked, 'for court action only' Date and sign the envelope. Place it into a further envelope and send it by post to your solitor with a message on the sealating, 'Only open for court action'. Create a duplicate, mark it with copy and send it to yourself. Do not forget to inform your solicitor that the letter will be arriving and needs to remain secure in their safe until needed or they may have to start the process again.

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Writing Your Business Plan (Traditional or Online Business)

How To Write A Business Plan

In my previous article, I talked about how you can plan your business startup. I defined a business plan as a written description of the future of your business. This is a document that indicates what you intend to do and how you intend to do it. I further explained that if all you have is a paragraph on the back of an envelope describing your business strategy, you have written a plan, or at least the beginning of a plan. I also said that a business plan consist of a narrative and several financial worksheets.

I mentioned that the 'writing of a business plan' as one of the pivotal steps involved in setting up a successful business. By now you should understand the need for writing a business plan. Writing a business plan, for a traditional brick and mortar business, will probably take a lot of time. It may take up to 100 hours or even more. For obvious reasons, a new business needs to carry out a lot of research before a business plan can even be developed.

For an online business, a detailed and in depth business plan is usually not necessary unless you are trying to combine your online business with a traditional business. For most online business startups, the detail involved with planning a traditional business is not required. However, it would still be beneficial to you if most of the topics were still covered, even if only briefly. Having a written plan in front of you will help you to focus on important aspects of the business.

You may not have thought much about your competition or outsourcing some of your work, but things like that will affect your ability to make a profit. And you will find this especially so in the beginning phases of your business. Even you are just opening a lemonade stand in the front yard, you will still need to know what Susie is selling her lemonade for on the next street over!

So, although a detailed business plan may not be required for an online business, I am going to include it here so you can at least look at and consider each section and determine yourself if it applies to your business.

Here I will be discussing the basic steps involved in writing a business plan:

1. Executive Summary: The first step involved in writing a business plan is the executive summary. Here, include everything that you would cover in a five minute interview.

Explain the fundamentals of the proposed business: What will your product be? Who will your customers be? Who are the owners? What do you think the future holds for your business and your industry?

Make it enthusiastic, professional, complete, and concise.

If you are applying for a loan, state clearly how much you need and be precise in how you are going to use it. Also include detail about how the money will make your business more profitable, thereby ensuring repayment of the loan.

2. Business Description: After the executive summary, you need to write a short description of the business you are going into. You need to give a general description of the industry your business belong to. You will write about your company's mission statement, goals and objectives, business philosophy, as well as its legal form of ownership (sole proprietor, corporation, LLC, etc.).

Describe your most important company strengths and core competencies. What factors will make the company succeed? What do you think your major competitive strengths will be? What background, experience, skills, and strengths do you personally bring to this new venture?

3. Marketing Analysis / Strategy: The next thing to write (after the general description) should be your marketing strategy. For new or existing businesses, market analysis is an important basis for the marketing plan and will help justify the sales forecast. Existing businesses will rarely heavily on past performance as an indicator of the future. New businesses have a greater challenge – they will more more on market research using libraries, trade associations, government statistics, surveys, competitor observations, etc. In all cases, make sure your market analysis is relevant to establishing the validity of your new business and the reasonableness of the sales forecast.

4. Location: Writing down the location of your business is very important. Locations with greater customer traffic usually cost more to buy or rent, but they require less spending for advertising to attract customers. This is especially true of retail businesses where traffic count and accessibility are critical.

If an online business, you need to go into detail how you will attract customers to your website. General statements like “I will use Face Book ads and email marketing” will contribute almost nothing to helping your cause unless you have detailed statistical analysis of tests you have connected or of another similar business you have been associated with. If you do not have any data upon which you reference your estimates, it could show lack of proper thought to the reminder of your business plan.

5. Competitive Analysis: Business by nature is competitive, and few businesses are completely new. If there are no competitors, be careful; there may be no market for your products. Expand your concept of competition. If you plan to open the first roller skating rink in town, your competition will include movie theaters, halls, bowling alleys, etc.

6. Management and Operations: Because management problems are the leading cause of business failures, it is important to discuss management qualifications and structure. Resumes of the Principles should be included in supporting data. If your business will have few employees and dearly heavy on outside professionals, list these key people and their qualifications. If you are seeking financing, include personal financial statements for all of the principals in the supporting data section.

7. Personnel: The success of any company depends on their ability to recruit, train and retain quality employees. The amount of emphasis in your plan for this section will depend on the number and type of employees required.

8. Projected Financial Statements: These statements are usually helpful, but not necessary. You will develop and describe your strategies for the business through your Business Plan. In the financial section, you will need to estimate the financial impact of those strategies by developing planned Income Statements, Balance Sheets, and Cash Flow Statements.

It is usually recommended that these projected statements be on a monthly basis for at least the first twelve months or until the business is planned to be profitable and stable. Activity displayed beyond the monthly detail may be in summary form (such as quarterly or annually). The forecast period for most business plans is two to four years.

9. Summary Section: This section is where you will be able to attach or explain any detail not applicable to the previous sections. This section should be used to provide the financial statements of the Principle's involved in the business and any other data you think an investor would be interested in seeing.

The main thing to remember in this section is not to provide new data, but to explain in detail data that has already been provided and to provide the support for that data.

When you sit down to compile all of the elements of your business plan, make sure you have each section able to stand on its own merits. This means you should not reference other sections sending the reader (your potential investor) back and forth between sections.

Do not try to write your business plan in one sitting. As I mentioned in the beginning, for a traditional brick and mortar business, it could take in excess of 100 hours to compile all of the information needed into a comprehensive but yet understandable document. For online businesses, probably not that long. But your final product should be well thought out, well documented and easily understandable.

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